Amazon also offers a Kindle book
reader application for the iPhone that
will automatically synchronize with
the Kindle. This makes it convenient to
shift between the two devices, reading
a page or two on the iPhone reader in a
spare moment and later reading longer
passages on the Kindle.
Sony offers a similar book reader
based on the same technology and
recently made an agreement to allow
Sony Reader owners to download
books digitized by Google. Other electronic readers inspired by the success
of the current generation of portable
devices are sure to follow.
Google books are formatted for
mobile devices such as the iPod.
But when I actually sat down to read
the novel, I became so engrossed in
the story that I forgot I was reading
from an electronic device.”
The Kindle is not perfect. Its current user interface violates several
of Nielsen’s usability guidelines for
human interface design. It is best
suited for linear content that does not
require the user to move quickly from
one section to another. However, as
a proof-of-concept device, it is good
enough to change Nielsen’s mind
about the future of electronic books.
Nielsen cites two factors that affected
this shift: equal-to-print readability
and multidevice integration.
Electronic book readers can provide
a significant benefit for those with
reduced visual acuity or other visual
impairments. The Kindle also includes
a built-in text-to-speech option that
will recite any book aloud. Students
are using this feature to increase comprehension and focus as they read. Researchers have yet to determine how
this might assist beginning readers,
but it is clear that there are potential
connections here, as well.
In the future, it will increasingly
be possible to fabricate objects on
demand (see L&L’s May 2009 Connected Classroom). This may allow
students to obtain personal copies of
vices. The books can be
indistinguish-a ble fromconventionalbooksinevery
r espect except that readers determine
when a copy will be fabricated.
L ibrarians often speculate that
pat rons use just 20% of the collection
8 0% of the time. Could we retain
2 0% of collections in physical format
a nd fabricate other publications as
n eeded? Electronic and print
form ats will coexist for many years, but
i t will become increasingly easier to
m ove between physical and electronic
The Kindle DX, which can display a full textbook
page, will be piloted in six universities this year,
including the University of Virginia.
formats—scanning a physical book to
create a digital copy or using print-on-demand services to go from an electronic to a physical book.
A New Beginning
Weisberg concludes, “I’m optimistic
that electronic reading will bring more
good than harm. New modes of communication will spur new forms while
breathing life into old ones.”
An explicit goal of the Curry School
is to serve as a laboratory for innovation. This includes consideration of
ways in which spaces no longer filled
with physical copies of books might
be used for collaborative knowledge
creation and learning. For example,
electronic copies of books make it possible to simultaneously display a book
on electronic whiteboards in two locations—one in the Curry School library
and a second in a K– 12 school. This
offers the opportunity for collaboration, annotation, and joint interactions
that were not previously possible.
The term incunabula refers to the
half-century after the invention of the
printing press. The word literally refers to the cradle, or infancy, of printed books. During this period, many of
the features of books that we take for
granted today were developed. We are
now entering the incunabula of digital
Glen Bull is co-director of the
Center for Technology &
Teacher Education in the
Curry School of Education at
the University of Virginia and
editor of Contemporary
Issues in Technology and
Teacher Education ( www.CITEjournal.org).
Bull is a volunteer columnist for L&L.
Martha Sites is an associate
university librarian at the
University of Virginia who
provides leadership for
and instruction. She may
be reached at marthasites@
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